The general perception of video games has always been negative. While kids love them, parents typically believe video games to be addictive and violent. However, for kids, not only are video games entertaining, but they also serve as an outlet of stress relief and helps them connect and bond with friends. There is no doubt that video games are a constant source of worry and a headache for parents. However, since children are unlikely to give up their love for video games, researchers are now trying to see how video games can be used for the good. Keeping this in mind, experts have designed a video game that aims to teach children empathy and tries to change their young brains to improve their social behavior. But can playing video games help imbibe empathy in children? Let’s take a look.
Researchers Try to Teach Children Empathy Through Video Games
Research data recently released by the Kaiser Family Foundation has revealed a disturbing trend – children between the ages of 8 years to 18 years are playing video games for more than 70 minutes per day. The reason why this data is worrying is that these years of a child’s life are the primary years during which critical development, both emotional as well as cognitive, takes place. Due to so much time is spent playing video games, parents and doctors both worry that a heightened stimulus such as the one being provided by video games, might be putting the brains of these children at right.
Keeping this data in mind, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have designed a video game that will be used to boost a child’s empathy. The team of researchers aims to use video games for boosting the emotional development of children towards positivity, moving them away from the violence often displayed in video games.
Trying to teach children ‘pro-social’ values, the researchers have developed an experimental video game aimed towards the age group of middle schoolers, named “Crystals of Kaydor”. The video game has been designed with a goal of increasing empathy in children who are playing the game. They are tweaking the technology behind video games to actually make them less addictive, and socially valuable at the same time.
Can Playing Video Games Help Imbibe Empathy in Children?
While the premise sounds promising, does the video game really work? Surprisingly, yes! The research team found that after two weeks of playing this video game, the children participating in the study started exhibiting a higher level of connectivity in their brain pathways that are responsible for empathy. Nevertheless, these results were not observed in everybody. Some of the children playing the game did not show any improvement in the behavioral measures that indicate empathic accuracy. However, the researchers believe that this was because these children found the game to be too easy for their level and often lost interest half-way itself.
While the research seems promising, it seems that one type of game may not be the ideal teaching tool for all children. However, this research definitely proves that there is a great potential for video games to impact the social awareness and behavior of the children who are playing these games in a positive manner. More research and development could help develop games that are suited for all age groups and benefit a broader range of children.